Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
The murmur of the relatively tame crowd filled the comedy club, with the exception of a loud belly laugh every now and again. Cigarette smoke clung to the walls like a toxic cloud and the smell of alcohol lingered on almost everyone’s breath, Including Richard. He sat in a corner alone awaiting his friend’s arrival. The carpet was soiled and the booth he was sitting in had most likely never been cleaned. He looked around seeing other groups of people clumping together, all having their own little conversations.
Feeling self-conscious he focused on his drink, a stale bitter brew with no interesting qualities or flavours, the only reason he drank such a thing at all was because there was nothing else. He stared at the HRRC branding on the bottle, it had been a while since he had seen anything other than their products. Sighing impatiently he began combing at his brown hair with his fingernails, disgusted with the amount of dandruff and grime that coated his hand. I should really buy some better shampoo.
His thoughts were broken by the sound of someone talking through the speakers. The stage was the only source of light in the room, spotlights beamed down onto a stool and the silhouettes of people’s heads could be seen staring up at the woman now on stage.
Someone rapped their knuckles on the table grabbing Richard’s attention. It was Murali, he was still in his work clothes, a simple office worker’s garb. He was tall for an Indian and had darker skin then most, he was often mistaken for an African. His short curly black hair always annoyed Richard who wanted him to grow an afro. He grinned the whites of his deep brown eyes clearly visible in the dark room.
“Hey Rich.” He said in his funny Indian - Australian accent.
“You sure took your sweet time getting here.” Richard responded starkly.
“Come off it, I got busy.”
“Ha, Li the slacker busy? You’re joking right?” the two friends grinned at each other. Pulling out a pack of smokes Murali sat across the booth and glanced over at the stage.
“Anyone good?” he asked while lighting his cigarette.
“Dunno, haven’t been listening.” Richard responded eyeing the stage and seeing some other nameless person telling jokes and ‘funny’ stories about… something or rather.
“Then what’s the point of coming here then?” Offering a cigarette to Richard, he suddenly shushed his friend with a slight wave and raised an eyebrow to one of the jokes being told, he paused for a second to let it resonate in his mind, He chuckled to himself as the deeper meaning of the joke sunk in.
“What was it?”
“You shoulda listened dumbass, the entire reason for places like these to exist,” he flailed his arm around gesticulating to the comedy club. “Is to listen and to laugh at jokes. Now answer my question.”
“Looks good on my record.” Richard answered nonchalantly, swirling the now flat beer around in the bottle, “and the piss is cheap.”
His friend sighed and began muttering something about just going to a bar instead. This didn’t bother Richard his attention was focused elsewhere, a man in a heavy looking black overcoat with a fancy looking ensign hanging off his lapel sat across the room. He wouldn’t of noticed the man if it wasn’t for the distinct glow of a radio transceiver lighting up a section of his face.
“What’s up?” Murali finally asked noticing his friend’s behaviour.
“There’s a Commissar here.” He said in a half whisper.
Murali let in a sharp intake of breath, “Fuck, are you serious.” Stooping to make himself smaller, he tried to see where Richard’s gaze was focused but saw nothing.
“Relax Li, he’s probably checking the comedians are up to standard.”
“Damn vultures.” Murali cursed under his breath, “won’t even let us have our jokes now. No suicide, depression or ‘Big one’ jokes. Hell most morbid jokes are taboo as well”
“Shut up! There is a commissar literally a few metres away. Are you trying to get detained?” Richard hissed through his teeth. Murali stared at his friend absently, he gesticulated his annoyance and slumped back in his chair.
“Bah, ‘Anything for Humanity™’ my ass.” He whispered
“He could just be here to take a load off, like us.” Richard offered.
“Why jump to their defence huh?” He moved so his face was centimetres away from his friend’s face, as if doing so would reveal all untold secrets.
“Whoa back up mate.” He said pushing Murali back by a few inches.
“How was the enthusiasm enrichment, Richard?” he chuckled softly, correcting himself. “Or should I say brainwashing.”
“Fuck off cunt, I’m not brainwashed. I’m just warning you to watch your tongue.” He spat too tired to deal with his friend’s mirth.
Stunned at his friend’s quick retort, Murali sat back down to brood. Breaking the silence that had ensued Richard suggested that they get more drinks, an idea they could both agree on.
“So you gotten that promotion yet.” Murali queried already forgetting his friend’s prior outburst.
“Nah, man still on the factory floor.”
Murali Grimaced at this, he nodded to his friend. “Gotta splurge?”
Richard hummed in response, “I got…” he checked his watch, “six more hours until ‘the taxing’. Its fine I don’t have too much saved up anyway.”
Murali opened his mouth to speak but the sound of the crowd chittering like bats cut him off. Something was happening. Everyone stared at the man on stage, he was a tall lanky man and he stood their sweating. “Oh… tough crowd, huh” he laughed weakly, from the corner of Richards eye he saw the commissar stand and make their way to the stage. He wasn’t the only one who saw the comedian turned on his heel and bolted for backstage. He disappeared from sight briefly, only to be flung back onto stage and pinned down by security. He was yelling but Richard couldn’t hear, like everyone else in the room he was covering his ears as much as he could. He watched the Commissar drag him away, it left a bad taste in his mouth.
He felt someone grab by the wrist and drag him to the exit, it was Murali. As they stepped outside a wave of cool air flowed over them.
“What happened?” Richard asked,
“No clue, said something blacklisted probably.” Murali looked right then left and started off into the night, “Get going before this place gets flooded with Public Security, until tomorrow Rich.” He walked off at a quick pace flicking his cigarette over his shoulder. Richard turned and started the march back to his apartment, so much for a quiet drink. The sound of distant sirens echoed through the empty streets as HRR public security forces rushed to the scene.